INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Brennan
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning:-
(2) Clawback of an ''Additive'';
(3) Individual grading.
The dispute concerns the introduction, in August, 1995, of a Product Traceability System, in 3 phases. Phase 1 went live on the 8th of August, 1995, and the parties attempted to agree arrangements for the introduction of Phase 2. A conciliation conference took place which resolved matters in relation to Phase 2. It was proposed that Phase 3 should be "implemented with the same terms resulting from the Phase 2 exercise applying to Phase 3 in the Finished Goods Department" (Clause 4, Labour Relations Commission document). The exercise referred to was an Irish Productivity Centre study examining the question of whether the Union claim for two grades for personnel involved in Phase 2 should succeed, or the Company position of one grade only should be conceded. In the event, the IPC recommended one grade only but expressed that finding as "Grade 5 to be conceded". The Union is now claiming Grade 5 for all employees involved in Phase 3 which would involve an increase of up to three grades in some cases.
CLAWBACK OF ADDITIVE:
The additive, which is equivalent in value to one grade, is being paid to 10 workers pending the resolution of the Traceability issue. The Company claims that the payment is a temporary measure agreed upon to ensure implementation of Phase 3 Traceability in Finished Goods. The Union's position is that, in line with a Labour Relations Commission proposal, should the IPC Report result in an increase of 1 grade only, the Company should not seek to recover the additive, which has been paid since April, 1996.
This issue concerns the appropriate grading to apply to 3 individuals who were transferred from Finished Goods to Goods Inwards during the course of the implementation of Traceability.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission in November, 1996 and January, 1997, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 12th of February, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 23rd of April, 1997.
3. 1. GRADING:
1. The Traceability system introduced an updated and more efficient system particularly impacting on workers in the stores area, initially in Goods Inwards. On the introduction of Phase 1, the Company agreed to 1 upgrading for this area, i.e., from Grade 4 to Grade 5. When further changes and increased efficiencies followed in Phase 2 a claim was made for a further upgrading. In order to facilitate a speedy agreement for start up of Phase 2, the Company agreed to this up-front but in the form of paying the differential as an additive, awaiting determination. Such is the level of increased efficiency brought about by the changes in work practices for these workers, requiring their commitment to flexibility and change, that nothing short of the second additional grade (i.e. Grade 6) is justified.
2. Phases 1 and 2 of Traceability did not bring about many sweeping changes for workers in the Finished Goods area of the stores though they co-operated with the system in its modernisation of old methods of operation. However, Phase 3 Traceability called upon those in Finished Goods to embrace the changes previously implemented for Goods Inwards and had a major impact on their working conditions. Whatever grade results for Goods Inwards must also be extended to Finished Goods.
2. CLAWBACK OF ADDITIVE:
1. Originally, it was agreed that, if it was determined that the additional grade was not justified for Goods Inwards, then the payment would be withdrawn and paid back to the Company by the workers. This proposal originated at a meeting on 31st of March, 1996, over twelve months ago. Since that time, the additive has been in place and, if it were to be clawed back now, great hardship would be caused to the workers who are on low pay relative to industrial averages.
3. INDIVIDUAL GRADING:
1. In the autumn of 1996, the Union raised this issue with the Company and negotiations followed at local level and at the Labour Relations Commission, in 1997. The dispute arose from the fact that the Company requested the workers to transfer from Finished Goods to Goods Inwards to facilitate training and for a short period of time. The workers co-operated on this basis but vehemently disputed the Company's position not to extend to them the appropriate Goods Inwards grade, i.e., Grade 5 + additive.
2. The Company's contention was that the appropriate grade would be determined by an addition of 1 grade onto the previous grade of the individual. This proposed means of determining a grade is contrary to the well-recognised and existing agreed basis of determining a rate, i.e., on the basis of the job and not the individual and would make a nonsense of the existing and proposed new system of grading.
4. 1. GRADING:
1. Clause 4 of the Labour Relations Commission's proposal of the 7th of November, 1996 states:-
"That Phase 3 of Traceability is implemented with the same terms resulting from the Phase 2 exercise applying to Phase 3 in the Finished Goods Department".
At the first review meeting between the Union and the Company after Phase 1, the Union claimed that 1 grade was not sufficient for Goods In, i.e., from Grade 4 to Grade 5, and that they were seeking a further grade, i.e., Grade 4 to Grade 6. The Company argued that a 2-grade jump could not be justified and both sides agreed that the IPC would independently assess the situation, and that its recommendation would be binding. The IPC report, dated the 2nd of January, 1997, recommended 1 grade for Goods Inwards for Traceability, i.e., Grade 4 to Grade 5, and, therefore, 1 grade will apply for Phase 3 in the Finished Goods Department.
2. CLAWBACK OF ADDITIVE:
1. In order to achieve agreement to implement Phase 3, the final phase, and enable the Company to have full product Traceability, the Company agreed to pay a temporary additive. The Company believes that a 2-grade upgrading could not be justified for the ten Finished Goods personnel in question and would be out of line with what all others operating the Traceability System were awarded. The Company would, therefore, clawback the temporary additive if the two grade upgrading was not justified.
3. INDIVIDUAL GRADING:
1. This issue arose because an incorrect grading was applied in error at the time of transfer. These 3 employees were on Grade 3 in the Finished Goods Department and were transferred to Goods Inwards on a temporary basis as part of Traceability training. They should have received 1 Grade and the temporary additive similar to what was awarded to Goods Inwards for Traceability. That should have put them on Grade 4 plus the temporary additive, but they were incorrectly put on Grade 5 plus the additive which equates to 2 grades. This error was corrected when discovered from the 5th October, 1996. However, the overpayment during this period was not clawed back.
The Court has fully considered all of the issues raised by the parties in their oral and written submissions.
The Court finds as follows:-
1.Interpretation of Clause 4 of the Labour Relations Commission proposal of 7th of November, 1996:
That the Company interpretation that one grade increase apply for Phase 3 in Finished Goods is appropriate.
2.Clawback of temporary additive - Finished Goods:
That, in the interests of goodwill, the Company forego the clawback subject to the acceptance of this Recommendation.
3.Grading issues relating to three transferees from Finished Goods:
The Court finds that employees here concerned should have been put on the Grade 5 plus the additive for the duration of their period of work in Goods Inwards.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
26th of May, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.